Antigonum Cajan sent us these images of his urban garden in Puerto Rico. He gardens in a small space with lots of concrete around but still has managed to collect 80 different species of plants from 43 different families!
I have collected plant for decades; however, not until 2002, when I received my certificate in commercial horticulture
landscape management from the New York Botanical Garden did I start rigorous collecting with the urban asphalt/concrete context
where I live in mind. Most of the inventory has been collected on my walks or has been exchanges and presents, with very few bought in nurseries. I have propagated a lot by cut stems, seeds, and division. I do not like gingers, heliconias, orchids, bromeliads, palms, and lawns, which are in my view abused in many installations.
The advantage of 80 species and 43 botanical families is that I see very few broadleaf weeds and diseases, and mostly white flies, few snails and slugs, and occasional leaf hoppers. Since the garden is conceived biocentrically, I only use Capsicum frutenses (hot pepper) and garlic to spray when necessary.
I chose plants, trees, bushes based on their architecture. I am not fond of huge leaves, but I appreciate some in the right context. Composition and contrasts in color, texture, and size are my guides, and I often change things to improve the view. Vines are fundamental in my selections. I have many different vines in the garden, and they are great for various pollinators.
All my inspiration and influences in style come from temperate geographies, from people like Piet Oudolf, Clive West, and Richard Mabey. In the Caribbean archipelago, there is nothing happening in anything I have mentioned. It is paradigmatically dull. You find the same in a cemetery or park, in public and private places, since everyone buys at nurseries with the same abused selections. Most people here do not appreciate what I do, but I could care less, since no one else is doing it.
Abundant vines, like this colorful Bougainvillea (Zones 9–11) are key to packing lots of life and diversity into a small space.
More lush vines create terrific habitat for many beneficial insects.
The vine-draped walls surround a peaceful patio, where every possible nook is filled with more plants.
Raised beds are filled with many different plants, to maximize the diversity in the garden.
The garden is a great space for humans as well! Simple chairs provide a space to sit, rest, and enjoy this lush, low-maintenance garden.
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